Grow Local

When the redbuds are in bloom and the skies are blue, loft-dwellers and suburbanites alike feel the pull of spring. Instead of heading over to the big box store to pick up a flat of petunias, check out Austin’s local nurseries. Not only does buying from local entrepreneurs support fellow Austinites but in the plant and garden business, local advice is best. Austin has challenging conditions to garden in and the local nurseries can help you find plants best suited for our climate.

Austin is fortunate to have many and varied local nurseries. Most of them are interesting destinations in themselves with quite distinct personalities. Check them out!

Barton Springs Nursery. Out in West Lake on Bee Caves Rd, Barton Springs Nursery is my prime source for native plants. They have a very helpful, knowledgeable staff and extensive shaded grounds. They also carry an assortment of planters, garden decorations, bird baths and fountains.

Big Red Sun. (Annoying Flash site but great real-world site.) On East 1st Street, Big Red Sun has a modern, urban feel. It carries very architectural plants (lots of succulents and cacti) and unusual planters. Their gift shop also sells apparel and housewares. A great place for integrating your indoor/outdoor lifestyles–even if all you have in terms of outdoors is a balcony. If you have no design sense, they can help you make something striking.

Floribunda. Formerly located on South Lamar, Floribunda has just lost its lease as South Lamar is being transformed to “SoLa”. However, their garden design business is still going strong and they do some of the most eye-popping designs in Austin. The owners hope to find a new location and reopen the nursery this fall.

Gardens. Near the Mo-Pac off the 38th St exit, Gardens is Austin’s high-end nursery and landscape designers. The plants are sometimes exotic and the gift shop always is. You’ll find plants at Gardens you won’t find elswhere. They are THE nursery to go to if you are looking for heirloom tomatoes and eggplants. They also carry unusual seeds that you can typically get only through mail-order, as well as a varied supply of bulbs suited for the south.

The Great OutdoorsThe Great Outdoors. On South Congress near St. Ed’s, the Great Outdoors is a green refuge in the middle of the city. It has magnificent live oaks, a huge water feature, and a coffee shop–oh yeah, and lots and lots of plants. The gift shop is filled with playful garden accessories.

It’s About Thyme. If you live in far south Austin, or north Buda, here’s an alternative to the Lowe’s and Home Depots that dot every corner. Located on far south Manchaca in what was once a ranch, the grounds of It’s About Thyme flow seamlessly into the fields beyond. They have all the typical nursery fare but what distinguishes them is the number of greenhouses with a varied assortment of ferns and palms.

John Dromgoole’s The Natural Gardener. Located in southwest Austin, the Natural Gardener has extensive grounds with many different show gardens to provide inspiration of what you can do with native and xeriscapic plants. Not only is this a great source of ideas and information and native plants, it is the place to go to get a wide variety of composts and mulches, either by the bag or the pickup load. Truly an Austin gardening institution.

Shoal Creek Nursery. Off the Mo-Pac on Hancock, Shoal Creek Nursery has a good selection of roses, shrubs and trees–their focus is the suburban gardener. Importantly, Shoal Creek Nursery sells only plants raised by regional growers, which means they will be more adapted to our harsh climate than plants shipped in by out-of-state growers like Monrovia.

Sledd Nursery. Located in Clarksville, this small nursery has been in Austin for almost three decades. If you like azaleas, this is the place to go. Sledd Nursery is my shrub and tree source but that’s not all they carry. They pack an amazing variety of annuals, veggies, bulbs, and roses into a very small space.

Where do you get your plant fix, and why?

10 Comments so far

  1. M1EK (unregistered) on March 8th, 2007 @ 9:38 am

    Sledd’s – it hits the sweet spot between “way too precious” (Big Red Sun) and “can I really call myself an environmentalist if I had to drive this far out of town” (many others).

    Of course, I used to buy plants for pots on foot there (they’d let me borrow a wagon to bring them home) – so I’m probably remembering with rose-colored glasses.

  2. Tim (unregistered) on March 8th, 2007 @ 10:16 am

    I need to check out “It’s about Thyme”. They’re just down the road from me. And it’s not anywhere near Buda (well I guess if you take IH-35, but why would any self-respecting Austinite do that except at gunpoint?). It’s only about a 10 minute trip from where Florabunda used to be, and it’s probably 10 minutes from the LadyBird Wildflower Center. which is another great place for inspiration. I went during the winter while it was free to get a list of plants that look good all year long.

  3. Rantor (unregistered) on March 8th, 2007 @ 10:45 am

    I like the alphabetical order. Sledd’s does still have little red wagons for the neighbors. The plants at Sledd’s are always extremely healthy and a visit is so easy to combine with a trip to FreshPlus. Gardens and Big Red Sun are beautiful places to visit just as a treat for the eyes and because the unexpected may be found. I’d be happy to reside at either business. Breed & Co., one of the remaining family-owned hardware stores in town, has a little operation selling this and that for the garden, including plants. Those looking for started plants to grow in pots or to set out in their vegetable gardens beginning at this time of year are likely to find starts of heirloom tomato plants and modern ones that do well around here, as well as herb plants, and surprises, including chile pepper varieties, at the South Austin Farmers’ Market, Saturdays year-round in El Gallo’s parking lot across from St. Ed’s from 9 am to 1 pm. These are organic, by the way.

  4. Susan (unregistered) on March 8th, 2007 @ 6:48 pm

    I’m sorry to hear about Floribunda. Always sad to see a good garden shop leave the neighborhood. I bought an excellent terra cotta urn there a year or so back at a great price. Barton Springs Nursery is my main garden shopping spot, though. I was just there this afternoon, in fact, although I just wandered without buying. Thinking and planning. I’ll be back, sooner rather than later, I’m sure. And Big Red Sun and Gardens are always great for inspiration.

  5. Annie In Austin (unregistered) on March 8th, 2007 @ 7:54 pm

    Red Barn is an interesting local nursery, where I’ve bought a lot of plants and shrubs. The south location closed a couple of years ago, but there’s one up near 183 & McNeil, handy for those of us who live in the north part of Austin.
    Hill Country Nursery on Pond Springs Road has nicely grown herbs, annuals and vegetables of the conventional, rather than heirloom, variety – also native plants.

    I love the Natural Gardener, think Great Outdoors is terrific, found good stuff at Shoal Creek Nursery and I’m glad I got to Floribunda last fall.

    I’ve also found cool plants at the Sunset Valley Farmers’ Market.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  6. Julie (unregistered) on March 8th, 2007 @ 9:05 pm

    I like looking for plants to be an adventure, more like thift shop shopping. Finding something “out of place” helps me appreciate plants and flowers I might otherwise have overlooked. So It’s About Thyme is my favorite. The staff is sweet and low -key, things are inexpensive, and best of all it’s peaceful, just me and the twittering finches on many a visit.

  7. Pam/Digging (unregistered) on March 9th, 2007 @ 7:59 am

    The two best nurseries in town for plants that are suited to our climate, staffers who know their plants, and great garden accessories are Barton Springs Nursery and Natural Gardener. Unlike some of the good but small in-town nurseries (and actually, BSN is pretty much in town), both places have fairly extensive grounds to show off a variety of plants. Natural Gardener in particular has huge display gardens that are a pleasure to explore just to get ideas.

    Add in all the other nurseries you mentioned, and Austin really is sitting pretty with a lot of great choices.

    Oh, and for North Austin/Cedar Park folks, don’t forget Hill Country Water Gardens up on Hwy. 183 north of Lakeline Mall. Yes, their pond displays are gorgeous, but they also have a great selection of plants and pots.

  8. r sorrell (unregistered) on March 9th, 2007 @ 9:34 am

    Shoal Creek Nursery is my neighborhood favorite, but if you live North, try It’s a Jungle on N. Lamar. They have an INSANE collection of orchids and seas of roses (both antique and modern).

  9. Emily (unregistered) on March 19th, 2007 @ 9:31 pm

    Any ideas of where I can go to get some soil delivered to my home? I am starting a container garden and need quite a bit! Thanks!

  10. M (unregistered) on March 20th, 2007 @ 7:55 am

    Add Emerald Gardens to your list. It’s on the access road along Highway 290 before you reach the “Y” in Oak Hill. I’m a shade gardener and usually find a good selection of healthy, shade-loving plants. It seems many Austin nurseries are expanding their space for selling pottery, while reducing their space for plants. Emerald Gardens is not one of these.

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